Tag Archives: storytelling

Cause and Effect

Hello everyone!

Cause and effect are vital to consider when telling a story.  Events don’t just happen.  Something allows them to happen.  Take a look at history.

What caused World War II?  Well, Hitler coming to power was a big part of it.  But what allowed Hitler to gain power in the first place?  Several things.  One being that he was a good orator, and Germany was weak both politically and economically.  What led to Germany’s predicament?  The Treaty of Versailles was largely to blame – Germany got a debilitating deal after World War I.  Why was the Treaty of Versailles so skewed against Germany’s interests?  You can keep unwinding this thread as far as you want.

Cause and Effect (1)Just as historical events led to World War II, something that happened before the start of your story should account for the state of your character’s world at the beginning of the book.  Equally important is making sure that events that occur earlier in your book lead to later events.  If an event does not force something else to happen, you probably don’t need that event.

An easy way to know whether or not you have good cause and effect in your book is to phrase the events of your story in a continuous run-on sentence.  You should always say, “this happened because of this.”  Never say, “this happened and this happened.”  “Because” means that the action is moving.  “And” is a sign of rambling, and rambling leads to bored readers.  After you’ve created your run-on sentence, rewrite any sections of the book where you found yourself saying “and” instead of “because.”

Keep your story moving, and happy writing!

Katie

Advertisements

What Does It Add to the Story?

Hello everyone!

Have you ever heard the phrase, “kill your darlings”?  I have, and I used to resent it with every fiber of my creative being.  Why would I eliminate a favorite character, scene, or line?  That question is one I’ve recently had to answer.

My project for 2018 has been editing my novel, “The Four Crystals.”  After making some changes to the main characters’ personalities and motivations, which strengthened the plot and intensified the conflict, I arrived at one of my favorite conversations between two characters.  It no longer worked.

I tried valiantly to save the conversation, but eventually, I had to re-write it.  Cutting the original version of that conversation hurt.  But I was super proud of myself for putting my story’s needs before my own desires.  Then I kept going.

short cutIn a travel sequence, I had an issue fester between two characters over the course of 48 hours and finally culminate in a confrontation.  I had so much fun writing the sequence.  When I looked over it, I realized that those scenes and even the confrontation didn’t move the plot along.  I could tell my reader how long it took my party to go from point A to point B and summarize the main difficulties they faced in one paragraph.  I tried to justify keeping the sequence on the grounds that it contributed to my characters’ development, but the reader already knew there was hostility between those two characters from earlier scenes.  And the mini-confrontation didn’t grow the tension between them enough to justify keeping the sequence.  I had to cut it, and yes, cutting it was painful.

When it comes to editing, I’ve concluded that anything that does not advance the story and/or the characters’ development should be cut.  It makes the story more interesting to read.

My challenge to all of you is when you look at your own work, don’t ask yourself, “How do I feel about this character, scene, or line?”  Instead, ask yourself, “What does it add to the story?”  If the answer is nothing, cut it.

Happy writing, and be bold in your editing!

Katie

Tension is Good for the Reader

Hello everyone!

Ever have a scene that just didn’t hold your readers’ attention?  How about an info dump you couldn’t eliminate because it contained vital information?

Janice Hardy offers some good tips for correcting both of these issues in her articles “Ready, Set…Where’s the Action? Keeping Informative Scenes Tense” and “Is a Lack of Action Really the Problem?”

When it comes to adding tension to a story, I personally am a fan of:

  • Argument 9two characters with conflicting opinions going head-to-head
  • no-win situations
  • point of no return decisions (especially when the protagonist has to choose whether or not to rely on someone who may or may not be trustworthy)

I hope Janice Hardy’s articles give you some good ideas for how to raise the tension in your scenes and keep your readers hooked.

Happy writing!

Katie

Is It Worth the Cost?

Hello everyone!

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.  […]  Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.”
― Veronica Roth, Allegiant

thM7R5DEQIThink about your favorite book.  What does the protagonist want?  In the end, does he/she get it?  That question and answer give you the basic plot.

Now, here’s a deeper question: What does trying to achieve his/her goal cost the protagonist?  The answer to that question is what makes the story and/or character interesting.  In my opinion, the cost is essential to the protagonist’s growth.

untitledConsider The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Edmond wants to be a king, but by siding with the White Witch, he sacrifices his freedom, his family’s trust, and – without Aslan’s intervention – his life.

Now let’s think about The Hunger Games.  Katniss is willing to do anything to protect her sister.  When Katniss takes Prim’s place in the games, she sacrifices her own safety to achieve her goal.  Once Katniss is in the games, her goal becomes to survive.  Surviving the games costs her what little childhood innocence she has left, friendships, and her peace of mind.

By the end of the books, both Edmond and Katniss are changed.  Regardless of whether or not they succeeded, they have to live with the consequences of what they did.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to:

  1. Choose a protagonist you have already created.
  2. Ask yourself what your character wants.
  3. Decide what he/she loses or willingly sacrifices while attempting to achieve his/her goal.
  4. Write the scene where your protagonist either chooses to pay the price or realizes what he/she will lose even if he/she is not willing to lose it.
  5. Does he/she feel like the cost was worth it?  (I do not think this necessarily needs to be included in a book, but I as the author like to know.)

In “The Four Crystals,” the novel I’m currently editing, having each character risk, lose, or willingly sacrifice something of value has raised the stakes and made the characters’ motivation stronger.  It’s also required a lot more editing than I ever imagined having to put into the novel.  (In-depth editing is the cost of writing a novel worthy of publication.)

Happy writing!

Katie

What’s in a Song?

Hello everyone!

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I love musicals, and Disney movies.  One of the reasons that I love them so much is because each song has a purpose: either to push the plot forward or give the audience some needed information.

Below are five functions that come to mind when I think of a song from a musical:

  1. table 2Setting the Stage: The song gives the background for the story or for a key part of the plot. (Examples: A Rumor in St. Petersburg from Anastasia, Alexander Hamilton from Hamilton, Façade from Jekyll and Hyde)

 

  1. time 8Passage of Time: I have mostly seen this done so that the audience can see a character’s childhood, but it can be used in other ways. (Examples: I Know It’s Today from Shrek The Musical, Lovely Ladies from Les Misérables, The Plagues from The Prince of Egypt)

 

  1. thQ5KBFDS2Exposition: The song explains something. (Examples: Tightrope from The Greatest Showman, Something Bad from Wicked, I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here from Annie)

 

  1. th73J0AYXLDesire: Expresses what the protagonist wants. (Examples: Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid, Santa Fe from Newsies, Much More from The Fantastics)

 

  1. Romance 1Love Song: There are many varieties of long songs.  Often a love song is a duet, but sometimes it is just one character expressing his/her love for another character.  It can also be the song in which two characters fall in love or finally realize that they are in love. (Examples: Can You Feel the Love Tonight from The Lion King, Jimmy from Thoroughly Modern Millie, I See the Light from Tangled)

Writing Challenge:

Choose a story that connects with you.  Now, try to write a song for one of the scenes or one of the characters.  Make sure that the song has a purpose, it cannot just sound pretty.

If you feel confident in your song writing abilities, increase the difficulty level by writing the song with a specific target audience in mind.  For example, the language Lin-Manuel Miranda used in Hamilton is very different from the language he used in Moana.  The reason is that Hamilton was written for an adult audience while Moana was marketed to children and their families.

Happy writing (and singing)!

Katie

Childhood Favorites

Hello everyone!

Ernie Gets LostReading was a huge part of my childhood.  Some of my best memories are of my parents reading to me.  When I was six and got lost at Disney Land, I knew what to do because of a Sesame Street picture book that my mom had read to me.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to create a new story based off of your favorite picture book from childhood.  Do one of the following:

  1. Re-write the picture book as a story for adults.
  2. Take the moral or theme of the picture book, and write a different children’s story with the same moral or theme.
  3. Why was that picture book your favorite?  Identify element that made the book special for you.  Then, write a story that contains that element, but otherwise is unrelated to that picture book.

Happy writing!

Katie

Daily Disasters Make Fantastic Fiction

Hello everyone!

What is comedy besides a light-hearted portrayal of errors, deception, and miscommunications?

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to take something bad that happened to you and use it as the basis for your comedic story.

Mess 4Remember, a story needs a plot.  What was your protagonist trying to accomplish when this misfortune befell him/her?  How did your protagonist adapt his/her plans?  Feel free to add on multiple mishaps and disasters.

Also, remember that comedies usually end well, or at least ironically; otherwise, it’s just tragic to have someone be that unlucky.

Happy writing!

Katie